Magazine article Information Today

Just Say 'OK'

Magazine article Information Today

Just Say 'OK'

Article excerpt

I was busy working on a present for a few close friends recently when an alarming message popped up on my computer screen. The iTunes message informed me that "my" license permitted me to make only seven copies of the playlist I was burning. Unfortunately, the gift I was putting together was for eight of my friends. I'm all for supporting the performing arts, and I agree with the constitutional notion that artists and inventors have a right to earn a living. But if it were not for my ability to make playlists and develop creative mixes of the music, I would have no incentive to pay 99 cents a copy for each "tune" I purchase for my iTunes music library.

The marvelous thing about the iTunes model was that it seemed to understand that, as a consumer of music, I wanted to be empowered to select and arrange my collection in my own sequence and share that spark of my own inventiveness with a few others.

But now I'm wondering why the Apple iTunes service that seemed to understand me so well should suddenly betray me by not only telling me what an appropriate use of my playlist is but also giving me no option to extend my license to lawfully permit me to make one additional copy.

Who in the legal department at iTunes decided that seven is the fair limit for my use of the legal copies I purchased? At what point does my creativity start to look like piracy to iTunes, which is clearly using its digital rights management (DRM) system to look over my shoulder as I interact with the collection of songs I have purchased for my music library?

So I was delighted to see fair use on the program at the recent SIIA Information Industry Summit in New York. William Patry, Google's chief counsel on the subject of fair use, offered a refreshing perspective to an audience that usually considers copyright to be the king, especially those "exclusive rights of copyright holders" provisions.

Patry observed that if the law is thought of solely as a property right, the law gives copyright owners and their agents the right to "just say no" to that eighth copy of mine, for no good reason at all. It would also include the right to say no to making a single copy in the first place, for example, if you were digitizing the entire collection of a reference library. …

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